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Sourdough discard cinnamon sugar cake donuts

Don’t throw out that sourdough starter! Use a cup’s worth and make the softest, most delicate cinnamon sugar cake donuts this side of the Mississippi.

Waste not, want not.

That’s what old people say. And in this case it’s waste not, want dough-nots. See what I did there?

With a heaping cup of sourdough discard on hand you can make a giant batch of these donuts which are by no other fitting description completely melt in your mouth devine.


The scoop on sourdough starter discard

If you stumbled in to this post you may not be sure what I mean by sourdough discard. For those of us who are embracing the movement back to healthy bread–real bread–that means making wild yeast leavened sourdough (<–that’s a link to my class where I teach sourdough baking) which is made with a starter.

Each day you take out half and feed your starter to keep it alive and active so it can make bread.

But throwing away that half of the starter feels wasteful, so a lot of people use it to add a tangy flavor to other baked goods–like these cake donuts.

Do these donuts taste like sourdough?

That’s a big negative. In fact, they just tasted like cake donuts to me but you have to keep in mind we aren’t using the starter to rise these donuts: Baking powder does the heavy lifting.

What’s the difference between a cake donut and a regular one?

Cake donuts are made from flour, eggs, sugar and a leavening agent like baking powder which gives them a cake-like crumbly texture.

“Regular” donuts like you would buy in most bakeries slathered in chocolate or glazed to the heavens are made with yeast and required to rise a couple of times before they are fried.

Can these donuts be baked instead of fried?

I didn’t test them baked because I am a donut purist. I use refined coconut oil and not vegetable oil for frying and never look back.

If you wanted to bake them, they would likely work okay. May have a tad of a flat side, but if you don’t mind that then that’s fine with me. I’d probably bake them around 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes but that’s just a guess.

What if I don’t have any sourdough starter? Can I make these anyway?

Yes! I would recommend adding something to make up the difference in moisture. Maybe a cup of sour cream or whole milk plain yogurt would be a good swap.

Sourdough cake donuts steps in pictures

four images of mixing the donut batter
  • Cream butter and sugar.
  • Add eggs, starter, vanilla and milk.
  • Add dry ingredients.
  • Allow dough to sit and “firm” slightly.
  • Roll out to 3/4″ thick then cut circles.
  • Fry 1 to 2 minutes per side, toss in cinnamon sugar.
donut batter rolled out and donuts cut ready for frying

Looking for a regular yeasted donut? Try this version or bake your next batch of apple cider donuts.

The Recipe

two cake donuts in a box

Sourdough discard cinnamon sugar cake donuts

So tender they melt in your mouth. These sourdough discard cake donuts will be a special treat!
5 from 5 votes
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Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 432kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard


For the cinnamon sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar granulated or raw cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

For the donuts

  • 8 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted and softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar coconut sugar would work too
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sourdough starter you can swap in sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups refined coconut oil for frying


  • In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl use a hand mixer to cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, sourdough starter, vanilla and milk and mix well.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix.
  • Allow the dough to sit 2 to 3 minutes to firm slightly. The dough should be soft but workable.
  • Lightly flour your counter and turn out the dough. Dust the top with flour and roll about 3/4" thick.
  • Use a round cutter to cut circles about 3 inches wide and a smaller cutter to cut out the centers.
  • Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy pot or skillet to a depth of about 3 inches. Just deep enough that the donuts don't stick to the bottom until the oil reaches 375 degrees.
  • Add the donuts in batches of 3 or 4, turning when golden brown on one side–about 2 minutes. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more then transfer to the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature and may also be frozen for up to 2 months.


Calories: 432kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 216mg | Potassium: 183mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 344IU | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 2mg
Recipe Rating


Saturday 20th of November 2021

So so yummy! I shallow pan fried mine in duck fat and they were absolutely delicious, (though not the prettiest with my method). Thanks for putting this recipe together, I'll definitely be coming back for it.


Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

Could I use buttermilk in this recipe? I would assume I’d have to use baking soda rather than powder.

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

You can, though it will be thicker and may require a bit more to reach the right consistency. You can use baking powder as written since powder is just a blend of baking soda and cornstarch. They will still rise just fine. --Rachel


Sunday 30th of May 2021

Wondering if you can make the dough in advance/refrigerate overnight? (I'm actually trying this today - plan to take out of refrigerator and bring to room temp before cooking but was curious if anyone else had tried this?)


Monday 31st of May 2021

@Rachel Ballard, they actually worked beautifully! Just as good as when I made them per the recipe a few months ago! They puffed right up when I put them in the oil and tasted exactly the same. I baked several as well to see how those would do. They were not as good as the fried donuts (ofc) but were puffy and delicious! And now I have a stomach ache from "taste testing" too many lol . . . .

Rachel Ballard

Monday 31st of May 2021

Hey Rebecca, because these are leavened with baking powder that will rise and then collapse after it's mixed. If you left that in the fridge all night you'd have a pancake batter in the morning that won't rise when it's fried. You won't get the proper results. --Rachel


Sunday 14th of March 2021

Wonderful recipe! I actually baked them and they turned out so good. Brushed the pan and the doughnuts with coconut oil and baked them for about 8 minutes at 375


Saturday 17th of April 2021

@Jessica, I will try this then. 4 cups of coconut oil is a lot of expense! Yumm...., I’m excited, thanks for letting us know!


Saturday 13th of February 2021

We made these once and loved them, then made them again and added fresh blueberries to the dough. It worked great! The only problem was a few of the outside blueberries escaped the dough during the frying process. However, I think if we hand rolled donut holes, that wouldn’t be an issue.

Rachel Ballard

Sunday 14th of February 2021

Ah! Blueberries would be delicious!

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